Monday, January 25, 2010

The Problem

I used to love the playground as a kid. Mainly because being in the playground meant that you were NOT in school. I loved the swing and monkey bars but could not stand the merry-go-round. I couldn't stand it because I would get sick on it. At first it started out as fun as you went round a few times, then round again, and again, and again, and again, until it felt like my brain was mashing itself into one ear and my tater-tots were ready to reappear in an unpleasing form. Time to GET OFF!

I am taking a class on Buddhism in my truck. It is a fascinating religion but one of the things that I didn't realize that Buddhist consider reincarnation the PROBLEM of death and not the solution. In America reincarnation is hailed as some sort of panacea to all kinds of problems. But especially reincarnation is the solution of the problem Christianity presents in its theology of a REAL heaven and hell. Americans will tell you that there is no heaven and hell and that you come back as someone (or something) else, that energy is never destroyed it is simply recycled; hell is just too terrible a concept to believe in.

In true Buddhism reincarnation is the PROBLEM not the solution. Reincarnation is the "hell" of Buddhism. The problem is coming back as something else or someone else again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and .... Buddhist understand that the endless cycle of life is something you need to GET OFF OF or escape from and NOT something to be celebrated. In order to escape reincarnation they developed the idea of karma and nirvana. Karma means: actions or performance or in Christianese: works, good or bad. Nirvana means: blowing out, snuffing out a flame. The purpose or ultimate nirvana in Buddhism is to snuff out your cycle of life, to BE no more. You do that through good karma, good actions or works where eventually you will be like the Buddha himself ... GONE!

Now I can understand the appeal of getting off the merry-go-round. After a few thousand lifetimes the thought of another would be nauseating. The best thing would SEEM TO BE a complete stop, snuffing out the flame of life. In fact the wisest man who ever lived commented on this cycle of life calling it "Meaningless, UTTERLY meaningless, and wearisome." I would concur. Buddhism isn't for me. Heaven cannot be a "snuffing out" heaven must be a true awakening and true rebirth from your ONLY lifetime into your only ultimate reward. You have just one chance here, do the right thing.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

The Garbage Man

I lost my cell phone this week. I get so frustrated when I cannot find something that I need. My kids used to have a trick they love to play on my OCD tendencies: they take something from my neatly organized office and hide it until I cannot work anymore due to something being out of place. I simply cannot work efficiently when something is missing. Car keys, cell phones, and wallets are a particularly frustrating waste of time when searching. Sometimes it seems like the world is out to get you when you search and search and search and never find.

At one of the companies I worked for I was known for a period as the garbage man. My department "lost" sample glass that was worth millions. The sample was a special polished glass that we were coating and if successful would mean contracts in millions from this Japanese company. We finally narrowed it down to our Quality Control department who had the glass and placed it here. Here was next to a large garbage can. The garbage can was empty. I went with the garbage crew to the dumpster container at the docks. The container had been picked up 30 minutes ago by the garbage company. I called the garbage company and found the truck in route to the dump. I asked them to wait for me there and I met the truck at the dump. We went into the landfill together and I watched as he dumped the container and began to sort through the cubic yards of trash. After about 30 minutes I found a small wooden crate with Japanese shipping stickers and 50 pieces of glass inside. The garbage men were laughing and shaking their heads, the landfill bull-dozer guys were amazed and pointing at this guy in dress pants and tie going through their mountain. I cleaned up what I could and took the hour journey back to my company. I found the glass, I saved the contracts, but what I mainly got was a reputation. I was the "garbage man", I was the guy who you could count on to go to the dump for you, I was the guy who could put all of the pieces together to solve a problem, I was the guy who could get the job done, I was the guy who never gave up. I was the garbage man.

Life is frustrating, unpredictable, and even seems to be stacked against you. We are ALL missing something important and we ALL are looking for it. It may be different for each of us but we are still looking for it. In scripture the Psalms tell us that God REJOICES over those who seek him, and we will not be put to shame IF we seek him and seek him with all our heart. But the emphasis is always on the seeking and not on the finding because God is interested in the JOURNEY and not the destination. Our destinations have all been worked out already but how we handle the journey is up to us. How you handle the search and the seeking will decide your reputation, how you are remembered, and mostly define your life. I'll be remembered as the garbage man in that company. If you focus on your journey and your seeking; how will you be remembered? If you give up and let the life just happen to you; how will you be remembered? Now, where is my cell phone?

Annabel Lee by Edgar Allan Poe

It was many and many a year ago,
In a kingdom by the sea,
That a maiden there lived whom you may know
By the name of ANNABEL LEE;
And this maiden she lived with no other thought
Than to love and be loved by me.

I was a child and she was a child,
In this kingdom by the sea;
But we loved with a love that was more than love-
I and my Annabel Lee;
With a love that the winged seraphs of heaven
Coveted her and me.

And this was the reason that, long ago,
In this kingdom by the sea,
A wind blew out of a cloud, chilling
My beautiful Annabel Lee;
So that her highborn kinsman came
And bore her away from me,
To shut her up in a sepulchre
In this kingdom by the sea.

The angels, not half so happy in heaven,
Went envying her and me-
Yes!- that was the reason (as all men know,
In this kingdom by the sea)
That the wind came out of the cloud by night,
Chilling and killing my Annabel Lee.

But our love it was stronger by far than the love
Of those who were older than we-
Of many far wiser than we-
And neither the angels in heaven above,
Nor the demons down under the sea,
Can ever dissever my soul from the soul
Of the beautiful Annabel Lee.

For the moon never beams without bringing me dreams
Of the beautiful Annabel Lee;
And the stars never rise but I feel the bright eyes
Of the beautiful Annabel Lee;
And so, all the night-tide, I lie down by the side
Of my darling- my darling- my life and my bride,
In the sepulchre there by the sea,
In her tomb by the sounding sea.

Say what you want about Edgar but he could put words together. His favorite topic was the death of a beautiful woman which was his topic in at least 4 other of his poems. Read this out loud and hear the words. When you read it FEEL how easily and unforced he uses rhyme and repetition. The "emotion" of the poem is dark but love comes through in unusual places; the first four lines of the last stanza particularly stand out. The moon and the stars will keep his love forever in his mind.

In this ever increasingly electronic age we need to stop and smell the proverbial roses but we also need to stop and savor words and phrases constructed NOT for the speed of tweets but for the evoking of emotion.

Monday, January 04, 2010

Window to the World

I sit at my desk and view the world. Consider what just happened the few hours I have spent in front of my window this morning:

- I just got off Skype with my brother in Peru, we conversed as if we were in the same room and were able to see each other at the same time.

- I posted a picture on Facebook to share with my friends and a dozen of them commented on it. They were from Michigan, Indiana, Iowa, South Dakota, Texas, Illinois, and even Iraq. All within the last few hours.

- I frequently talk with people that I went to high school with over 30 years ago.

- I will be sending out this column as a blog to over 700 people and they will all get it within seconds of my sending it.

- I am doing some research on Egypt and I found a live-cam on the Giza Plateau where I can look at the pyramids live and all the people who are visiting there RIGHT NOW!

- I am digitally archiving all our old photos so I am scanning them in the background while I am writing this. All these pictures bring me back to times and places and people long forgotten.

- I got a news blog that gives me articles and even news clips on the latest news and happenings in the world. I can see it in my window AS IT IS HAPPENING. I just watched a live feed from Iraq, Yemen, and Hawaii within seconds of each other.

- A friend emailed me a hilarious Youtube video which I watched and laughed till I cried.

- My home page gives me the latest of my favorite comics, the current price of gold and a few stocks I own, a live satellite image of my local weather, and pictures from all over the world taken by National Geographic.

My window to the world is an amazing thing. I hear that computers and the internet are destroying relationships and causing people to become more "closed" and separate from society. But I look through my window and see, talk, and interact with more people than I EVER would on a "real" one-on-one basis. Don't get me wrong, I and all of us need human "real" interaction and not just digital. But my window connects me with people who I would have long forgotten, with people with whom it would be impossible otherwise, more frequently and more deeply than I could or would without it. Umm ... like YOU right NOW.